Moscow: Thirty-one people were killed on Monday when a Russian passenger plane crashed and burst into flames while trying to make an emergency landing shortly after take- off near the western Siberian city of Tyumen, officials said.

Thirty-one people were killed and 12 survivors, all of them in serious condition, have been taken to hospital, Russia's emergencies ministry said in a statement.

The twin-engine French-Italian made ATR-72 turboprop aircraft had just left Tyumen on a flight north-east to the oil town of Surgut when it crashed. The aircraft burst into flames and broke into pieces upon impact.

Officials said 39 passengers and four crew members were on board the plane. It remains unclear what caused the crash.

Earlier, local authorities said 32 people had died, but that figure was revised to 31.

The twin-engine ATR-72 plane heading to Surgut crashed 30 kilometers from the city of Tyumen shortly after takeoff.

Russian airline operator UTair said the plane went down as the pilots tried to carry out an emergency landing. While preliminary investigations cite possible causes of the crash as technical difficulties and pilot error, media reports said.

The Itar Tass news agency reported that all the crew, which was made up of two pilots and two flight attendants, died.

All the bodies were recovered and the plane wreckage is being examined. The "black box" flight recorder had been found and a team of investigators has flown to the scene.

A criminal probe has been launched into the incident.

President Dmitry Medvedev has put off a planned meeting with leaders of Russia's unregistered political parties because of the crash, Russian media reported.

Deputy Transport Minister Valery Okulov has been appointed head of a government inquiry into the crash. Russian investigators said they consider technical failure as the most likely cause of the crash of the plane.

"Witness statements that smoke was coming from the plane's engines support this version," Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.

"Besides this, the behaviour of the crew, who turned the aircraft back towards Tyumen airport virtually immediately after take-off, also supports this theory," he said.

Experts have been studying data from the "black box" flight recorders and fuel samples recovered from the aircraft wreckage, Markin said. Pilot error or ground control error are also being considered as possible causes of the tragedy. Terrorism has been ruled out.

Investigators have also seized documents from UTair- Engineering, the company in charge of monitoring the aircraft's technical condition, Markin said.

The crash is Russia's deadliest air accident since a chartered jet crashed in September last year, killing 44 people, mostly players from the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team.